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Self-Destructive Pleasures, Privacy, Fundraising, and More

Radio Q&A: 13 May 2012

I answered questions on self-destructive pleasures, privacy in a high-tech society, pushy fundraising, browsing locally then buying online, and more on 13 May 2012. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life... far and wide. That's why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

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Segments: 13 May 2012


Question 1: Self-Destructive Pleasures

Question: It is wrong to pursue self-destructive pleasures? Suppose that you know that drinking to excess is not good for your mind or body, but you want to enjoy the oblivion of drunkenness. Or perhaps you know that sleeping with your ex-girlfriend is a very bad idea, but you want the pleasure of sex with a warm body. Is it wrong to pursue these pleasures, if you're willing to accept their destructive consequences?

Answer, In Brief: To live morally means to pursue your life and your values with gusto, not jump into the gutter. To yearn for self-destructive pleasures indicates psychological problems in need of fixing.

Tags: Ethics, Food, Hedonism, Pleasure, Sex

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Question 2: Privacy in a High-Tech Society

Question: Do you have the right to privacy with respect to information that I can gather about you from observation of you while I'm on my own property? For instance, if I have technology that allows me to gather photons or sound waves that you emit from your property while I'm sitting on my property next door, can I post that information on YouTube or Facebook? For example, imagine that I have an infrared video of your activities emitted through your bedroom wall or the audio of your personal phone conversation that can be detected by sensitive microphones from 100 yards away. Have I violated your rights by gathering and publicizing information you've chosen to allow to be broadcast to anyone who can detect it with the right equipment?

Answer, In Brief: Privacy is a value, and the law ought to recognize a fact-based distinction between private and public activities. The line should likely be drawn at what's perceptible by the unaided senses or perceptible with ordinary technology.

Tags: Law, Privacy, Rights, Technology

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Question 3: Pushy Fundraising

Question: How should I respond to the constant demands to contribute to fundraisers from my child's school? I am barraged with "requests" for contributions to school fundraisers. This week, for example, each student in the band is asked to put together a "buddy bag" with sweets (against my views), a toy (more plastic junk to fill the landfills), and a gift (I can't afford that). Every week, there's another fundraiser, for which parents are asked to spend their money on things they don't value or aren't a fair value. Should I refuse these requests – and if so, how should I do so?

Answer, In Brief: Be a good role model for your kids: recognize that you're not obliged to contribute, establish your own standards for contribution, and be firm and clear in communicating what you're willing to do (or not) to others.

Tags: Charity, Communication, Education, Ethics, Parenting

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Question 4: Browsing Locally Then Buying Online

Question: Is it wrong to browse in a local store but then buy online? Suppose that you shop for an item in a brick-and-mortar store, taking advantage of the opportunity to browse and get recommendations from staff, but then make your purchases at a discounted online retailer – for example, browsing through a local bookstore but then buying from Amazon at a lower price. Is that wrong or unfair?

Answer, In Brief: It's not wrong to buy online after browsing in a local store, provided that it's done honestly – just as it's not wrong to check out reviews online, but then buy in a local store. Be a self-interested consumer!

Tags: Business, Competition, Ethics, Honesty, Internet

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Rapid Fire Questions (46:35)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What should you do when you suspect that friends or acquaintances are depending on your opinion in second-handed ways?
  • Why would an egoist want to live in society?
  • What are some resources to communicate with tact and being more clear?
  • Is it wrong to "throw away your vote" on a candidate without any hope of being elected?
  • If the government didn't own the roads, who would set and enforce traffic laws?

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Conclusion (59:40)

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The vast majority of Philosophy in Action Radio – the live show and the podcast – is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because my mission is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as I do every week to thousands of listeners. I love producing the show, but each episode requires requires the investment of time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value my work, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, regular contributors enjoy free access to my premium content.

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."

My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or discuss a topic of interest.

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